Rapid urban population growth, droughts, wasteful irrigation use practices, and other factors have led to mandatory water restrictions in parts of the United States. Mandatory irrigation restrictions in Florida typically allow daily irrigation for 60 d (or less) for establishment of newly installed plant material, regardless of plant type (e.g., turfgrass, shrubs, trees, or bedding plants), and then irrigation is ended (South Florida Water Management District, 2008; Southwest Florida Water Management District, 2008; St. Johns River Water Management District, 2008). These restrictions are imposed despite suggestions that plants installed into the landscape from 3-gal nursery containers require 6 to 12 months to become fully established (Trenholm et al., 2002).
Most container-grown shrubs are irrigated one to several times per day in the nursery. As a result, plants can become stressed when not properly irrigated in the landscape during establishment because their roots are confined to a small root ball developed in the container (Costello and Paul, 1975). Irrigation is required until the plants develop sufficient root systems in the landscape soil to allow the plant to compensate for losses resulting from evapotranspiration (Barnett, 1986; Gilman et al., 1996; Montague et al., 2000). Insufficient irrigation immediately after planting may result in poor growth or plant death (Geisler and Ferree, 1984a; Harris and Gilman, 1993).
Many studies have reported increased growth in response to increased irrigation frequency during establishment (Barnett, 1986; Marshall and Gilman, 1998; Stabler and Martin, 2000). It appears that irrigation frequency may have a greater impact on woody plant establishment than irrigation volume (Gilman et al., 1996; Renquist, 1987). Currently, the majority of studies on the impact of irrigation frequency during establishment have been conducted on trees. There have been few studies that investigated the effect of irrigation frequency on growth of landscape shrubs during and after establishment. Furthermore, no studies have investigated the effect of irrigation frequency on shrubs grown in the unique environment and soils that characterize southern Florida. The objective of this study was to compare the effects of irrigation frequency during establishment on the growth and quality of wild coffee, orange jasmine, and copperleaf planted into the landscape from 3-gal containers.
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